A lot of times, sex ed conjures up images of a sixth grade classroom, a beleaguered teacher, and a bunch of snickering students (and maybe some diagrams). But, imMEDIAte Justice, a non-profit that uses film and media to talk about sexual health and rights, has found another way. They’ve partnered up with Planned Parenthood in their native Los Angeles to promote sexual health by breaking down gender barriers through the power of film.
The fruits of the partnership are four stop-motion videos made by teens, for teens. The videos put a heavy emphasis on taking a personal stand against socially constructed gender roles like the expectations that men need to be seen as providers, or women should defer to their male partners. The connection between gender roles and sexual health isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s there. Sylvia Raskin, a Sex Ed Initiative Trainer with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, points out that ‘research has shown that people who follow strict gender expectations tend to have negative health outcomes.’ That can mean anything from unplanned pregnancies to contracting disease to abuse.
It’s a novel way to present sex ed, and it’s an important one. Teaching kids to become informed, responsible and respectful participants in relationships isn’t something that can be solved with a few sessions of grade school sex ed. imMEDIAte Justice is providing another vital piece of the puzzle with their film series, complementing traditional sex ed while empowering young people to be themselves.
Young people have a lot of wisdom to share from their own experiences about what it’s like to be a 14-year-old dealing with issues about gender and sexuality. I think in many ways they are the experts on what type of sex ed information is most important to young people. Parents and teachers often tell young people to just say no to peer pressure or abstain from sex. I’ve found that youth give more thoughtful advice that acknowledges the complexity of setting your own boundaries and making decisions from a place of self love. As much as we think instructional sex ed will lead young people to make the right choices it’s actually education that allows youth to make decisions for themselves and think critically that keep them safe and healthy.
– Tani Ikeda, imMEDIAte Justice program director
Probably one of the keenest parts of the film series is that it doesn’t just focus on girls – all too often, the question of what to do about sexual violence or reproductive rights is framed as something girls need to face. But, change is only going to come when both boys and gils receive education like this and work together to break out of what imMEDIAte Justice calls the gender box. Male stereotypes and gender roles can be just as damaging as female stereotypes – to both boys and girls. The film series does a terrific job getting everyone involved – and it only helps that it’s teens working to teach their peers. No disrespect to all you beleaguered teachers out there, but sometimes teens need to hear things from people their own age.
Check out the four videos – The Road to Equality, To My Love, The Gender Box, and We Need to Talk. They’re all roughly minute-long stop-motion animation videos created by teens working with imMEDIAte Justice. The videos came together over the course of two weekends, and were shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark III cameras. If you’re curious about how to make your own stop-motion videos like these, the teens used Dragon Stop Motion software to put the videos together.
Ultimately, imMEDIAte Justice, and the film project, are focused on one thing everyone in media knows something about – communication. Relationships are built on it, and when communication can be unfettered by expectations of how one or the other should act, prospects are a lot better for everyone involved.